1) DOJ plans to detain "dozens" of
Iraqis /over 11,000 to be "interviewed" (3/19: CNN)
2) FBI Keeping Tabs on Iraqis in US (3/17: AP)
3) FBI Intensify Interviews of Iraqis (3/20: AP)
1) DOJ plans to detain "dozens" of Iraqis
/over 11,000 to be "interviewed"
From Kelli Arena
CNN Washington Bureau
Wednesday, March 19, 2003 Posted: 6:08 PM EST (2308 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI will detain about three dozen Iraqis in the United States who are considered sympathetic to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein or who are deemed a threat to Americans, government officials said Wednesday.
The detentions, which are expected to begin this week, will all be related to visa violations, officials said. The timing of the move does not necessarily coincide with the commencement of any military action against Iraq, because some of the detentions may take place before a U.S.-lead attack occurs.
The individuals in question have been under FBI surveillance for weeks and will be detained by FBI agents on immigration issues, officials said. The operation involved at least five cities, but officials would not identify which cities.
The FBI was recently granted the power to enforce immigration law by Attorney General John Ashcroft, after the Immigration and Naturalization Services moved under the umbrella of the Homeland Security Department.
There is a concern that the Iraqis under surveillance are connected to the Iraqi Intelligence Service, which, according to an FBI advisory sent to law enforcement agencies Tuesday, is capable of assassinations, hijackings and bombings.
However, the advisory noted, such Iraqi agents are "inconsistently competent practitioners of conventional terrorist methods and techniques," and it said al Qaeda remains the No. 1 threat to the United States.
The group of Iraqis that will be detained is separate from the more than 11,000 Iraqi nationals in the United States whom the FBI has located and plans to interview during the first weeks of any military conflict with Iraq.
Those Iraqis are not thought to pose any threat, but are expected to be
able to provide information the U.S.
government may find useful. Any interviews with the larger group of Iraqis would be voluntary.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI is closely watching dozens of Iraqis and others living in the United States, implementing a wide-ranging security plan meant to deter any reprisals for a U.S. invasion.
Some of those under FBI watch have been identified through interviews of up to 50,000 Iraqis. Others are suspected of having links to al-Qaida and other terror groups, possibly including the Hamas and Hezbollah organizations blamed for suicide bombings in Israel.
The interviews with Iraqis are ``designed to obtain any information that could be of use to the United States during a possible conflict,'' Jeffrey Lampinski, special agent in charge of the FBI's Philadelphia field office, said Monday.
The surveillance is part of a broader plan by the federal government, along with state and local law enforcement officials, to raise the nation's level of counterterrorism vigilance as the prospects for war increased. Many thousands of law enforcers are involved.
Some Muslims and Arabs fear war might result in harassment or deportation.
``All of us are going to be suspects,'' said Sarah Eltantawi, spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. ``There is just this profound sense of disappointment about what America is becoming.''
FBI spokesman Mike Kortan called the plan a prudent approach to give the country the best protection possible.
Law enforcement officials believe war with Iraq could become a catalyst for attacks on the United States or its interests abroad, possibly involving single individuals with explosives strapped to their bodies.
Despite the heightened caution, outbreak of war would not automatically raise the nation's terror alert status from its current level of yellow, or elevated, the middle of a five-part color-coded scale.
White House officials say that determination will be made based on intelligence information evaluated daily by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and others.
U.S. counterterrorism officials say operatives working for Iraq's Mukhabarat, President Saddam Hussein's intelligence service, could attempt bombings or other traditional terrorist-style attacks. Many are thought to work out of Iraqi embassies around the world under diplomatic cover. The State Department recently sought the expulsion of some 300 suspected operatives from more than 60 countries, but many have not been removed.
Al-Qaida also may use the fighting as an opportunity to strike, although the most specific information points to possible attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East. Officials say they have no credible information al-Qaida is close to launching a strike inside the United States. A recent statement from Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born leader of al-Qaida, declared some solidarity with Iraqis, although he referred to Saddam's government as infidels.
The security plan, a year in the making, would divert several thousand FBI agents away from regular duties to focus solely on counterterror and security. The 56 FBI field offices will set up 24-hour command centers working with the 66 joint terrorism task forces that include other federal, state and local law enforcement agents.
Their job will be to react quickly to any intelligence data, including that collected by the United States in Iraq, or other information indicating that terror is being planned or is imminent. They also will focus on potential targets, keeping closer watch on critical infrastructure such as dams, bridges and power plants, and react to any hate crimes directed against Muslims or Arab-Americans.
Immigration officials are prepared to detain anyone identified by the FBI in violation of immigration laws.
Associated Press writer John J. Lumpkin contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Homeland Security Department: http://www.dhs.gov
03/17/03 16:32 EST
WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI on Thursday intensified its effort to interview thousands of Iraqi-born individuals living in the United States in an effort to uncover any potential terrorists and to protect the rest from hate crimes.
Several thousand FBI agents were being diverted from regular duties to do the interviews and man command posts at each of the bureau's 56 field offices to gather intelligence and respond quickly to any terrorist threats. A national command center was set up at FBI headquarters in Washington.
``We are bringing to bear the full weight of our resources, expertise, and partnerships,'' said FBI Director Robert Mueller. ``We are running down every lead, responding to every threat, coordinating with every partner, and doing our utmost to keep terrorists from striking back.''
The FBI has new authority from Attorney General John Ashcroft to arrest people on immigration charges if they are believed to post a wartime threat.
The order took effect Feb. 28, the last day the Immigration and Naturalization Service and its enforcement laws fell under Justice Department jurisdiction. The INS ceased to exist the next day, when it was folded into the Homeland Security Department.
Ashcroft's decision, confirmed Wednesday by two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, gives more than 11,000 FBI agents and several thousand marshals new arrest powers. Previously, that authority was reserved for INS agents, some Customs agents and 35 police officers in South Florida under a program promoted by Ashcroft.
The FBI investigates major crimes and gathers domestic intelligence. The Marshals Service mainly tracks down and transports fugitives.
The law enforcement officials described the move as crucial in the fight against terrorism. Immigration charges frequently are used to initially detain suspected terrorists or sympathizers while other charges are developed.
The officials said it makes little sense for the FBI to delay arresting potential terrorists or spies while waiting for an immigration officer to show up.
One Justice Department official said the powers would be used ``only in appropriate situations, such as when the public safety requires prompt action.''
The Iraqis expected to be detained have been under surveillance by the FBI and are believed to be sympathetic to President Saddam Hussein. Those who would be detained are in violation of U.S. immigration laws, mostly because of expired visas, the officials said.
With the opening stages of the U.S. war against Iraq under way, the FBI will move to arrest the Iraqis rather then keeping them under surveillance. Officials said the Iraqis, who are not known to pose any imminent or specific threat, are living in Miami, Detroit, New York, Washington and possibly other cities.
The expansion of FBI authority comes as the bureau conducts voluntary interviews with up to 50,000 Iraqis living in this country, both to identify potential terrorists and spies and to provide assurances that any instances of hate crime will be investigated vigorously.
FBI agents also have been holding public meetings with Muslim groups and have said repeatedly the intent of the voluntary interviews is not to arrest people for immigration violations such as an expired visa.
The latest Justice Department directive appears to directly contradict that policy, said Dalia Hashad of the American Civil Liberties Union.
``This is clearly a community that is terrorized by and terrified of the government,'' said Hashad, the ACLU's advocate for Arabs, Muslims and people from South Asia. ``Every time this community extends a hand, it has been slapped.''
The ACLU and Muslim groups have been highly critical of several government
antiterrorism efforts, including the forced registration of thousands
of mostly Muslim men and boys with U.S. immigration authorities.
03/20/03 16:22 EST